Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has appealed to minibus taxi associations to reconsider their decision to load taxis at 100 percent capacity, flouting the South African government’s Covid-19 regulations as from Monday.
“I appeal to the leadership structures of the industry to reconsider their decision to incite lawlessness and place their drivers and passengers on a collision course with law enforcement authorities,” said Mbalula.
“While we have expressed support for a review of loading capacity to 100 percent, until the current directions have been revised the legal loading capacity is 70 percent and enforceable by law enforcement authorities.”
Mbalula condemned the taxi associations’ actions. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms any call encouraging taxi operators to violate provisions of the law and promote lawlessness. We remain committed to taking forward our engagements and encourage the industry to ensure that any form of protest they embark upon is within the parameters of the law,” he said.
The South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) said all taxis in South Africa would load at 100 percent capacity from Monday. The announcement was made in a livestream on Sunday.
Mbalula said after meeting the disgruntled industry last week, during running battles between law enforcement agencies and protesting taxi drives, a meeting scheduled to provide feedback on Thursday could not take place as planned due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
“It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law and forcefully load taxis at 100 percent capacity and undertake inter-provincial operations without the requisite permits, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled.”
Mbalula said government had a responsibility to ensure that all measures in place as a response to Covid-19 were driven by the commitment to preserve human life and avoid an uncontrolled spread of the virus.
“It is on that basis that a decision to allow uncontrolled inter-provincial travel and 100 percent loading capacity on taxis has to be subjected to the collective decision-making,” he said.
According to Santaco president Philip Taaibosch, taxis travelling long distance routes would be allowed to continue travelling across South Africa without permits.
Taaibosch warned that if any taxis were stopped by law enforcement and impounded, all taxis across the country would park where they were and would not move until the impounded taxi was released.